Lewis County, WA
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Lewis County in Southwestern Washington of approximately 84,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking are thoroughly documented problems within the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the county’s commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and the targeted homicide of prostituted women. For example, in 2010, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army sergeant pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a child and the attempted sex trafficking of a child. According to reports, the sex trafficker posted ads on Craigslist.com, a website known for sex trafficking activity, of two female runaways; a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. His arrest occurred in 2009 during a Pacific Northwest Federal Innocence Lost Task Force and Lakewood Police investigation. The girls were moved to a safe location while the sex trafficker received a dishonorable discharge from the military, 11 years in prison, 7 years of supervised probation, and the requirement to register as a sex offender. Cases of targeted homicide against prostituted people have also occurred in the county. For example, between 1984 and 1991, three Lewis County women were murdered; two of which were prostituted women and one of whom was known to be transient. Lewis County authorities believe these cases to be connected to the Green River Killer as they occurred within the same time period and at similar locations. In addition, the Lewis County women faced similar causes of death to that of the Green River Killer’s victims. The Green River Killer was arrested in King County, WA, in 2001, for the murder of over 50 women, primarily those who were transient or engaged in prostitution. In 2003, the offender pleaded guilty to the murder of nearly 50 women and was sentenced to life in prison.
To deter commercial sex buyers, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has been known to conduct web-based reverse sting operations. For example, in 54-year-old Centralia man was arrested on suspicion of patronizing prostitution during a web-based reverse sting operation. According to reports, this was the third sex buyer arrest in 2010 related to the ongoing investigation into Craigslist.com, an online classifieds website known for prostitution and sex trafficking activity. The identities of arrested offenders were released by police.
In 2018, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office participated in a web-based reverse sting focused on apprehending sex traffickers was conducted in the Centralia/Chehalis area. The operation was initiated in response to the shutdown of the known sex trafficking website, Backpage.com. According to reports, officers posted decoy ads online and communicated with individuals suspected of promoting prostitution in the area, arranging to meet potential sex traffickers at a local truck stop along Interstate 5 in the Centralia and Chehalis Area. Upon their arrival to the predetermined location, the sex traffickers were arrested by undercover law enforcement officials. Within six hours, five men were arrested for suspicion of second-degree promoting prostitution, possession of methamphetamine, and local warrants. In addition, five female victims of sex trafficking were identified. Although the identities of arrested offenders was not immediately released, after the three-part investigation was complete, police released the identities of arrested sex traffickers.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.chronline.com/article (2010)
- http://www.theolympian.com/winlock-postmaster-to-face-prostitution.html (2010)
- https://www.chronline.com/winlock-postmaster-caught-in-lewis-county-sheriffs-office-craigslist-sting (2010)
- https://tdn.com/winlock-postmaster-accused-of-soliciting-sex-on-craigslist/ (2010)
- Postmaster to face prostitution charge (2010)
- https://www.chronline.com/wsp-led-lewis-county-sting-targets-human-trafficking (2018)
- https://www.wsp.wa.gov/Second-Operation-Human-Freight-Leads-to-the-Arrest-of-Suspects-for-Promoting-Prostitution-.pdf (2018)
- https://www.theolympian.com/news/local/crime/article (2022)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:
- Centralia victim draws attention of Seattle squad (1984)
- Body found in river identified as hooker (1984)
- Bum rap sends sex-seekers to woman’s door (1990)
- Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord – Former soldier gets 11 years in sex-trafficking case (2010)
- http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/WashingtonRA2.pdf (2012)
- https://www.king5.com/article/news/crime/3-possible-green-river-victims-in-lewis-county/ (2013)
- https://cdn5.creativecirclemedia.com/lafromboise/files/ (2013)
- https://www.wsp.wa.gov/Operation-Human-Freight-Identifies-Multiple-Victims-of-Prostitution.pdf (2018)
- https://www.wsp.wa.gov/Operation-Human-FreightLeads-to-the-Arrest-of-Suspects-for-Promoting-Prostitution.pdf (2018)
- https://www.biography.com/news/gary-ridgway-green-river-killer-timeline (2021)
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